Back To School = Back To Work: Navigating Your Return To The Workplace

For parents who took a career break when they had children, the start of a new school year presents an opportunity to re-enter the workforce. However, returning to work after a break can be a daunting prospect. To make the transition smoother, it's important to work out how and where you want to work, update your CV and social media profiles, and find the right recruitment specialist to help you tailor your job search. This article provides tips on how to navigate your return to the workplace and find a job that fits your work, life, and school balance.

Updated: 5th February 2024

For most people, returning to work after the summer simply means coming back from a holiday or from using some annual leave while the schools are closed. But for some, the start of a new school year presents a much bigger career opportunity.

There are a substantial group of parents who began a career break when they had their children, either through necessity or choice. When their children reach school age, many of this group will now have the time to begin to consider how to re-enter the workplace - but in a way that suits them. This can often be a difficult decision for many reasons, so this piece takes a look about what to think about and how to navigate through to the right choices

Work out how and where you want to work

First thing’s first, you can’t start to look for jobs without really understanding what’s possible for you. So, the very first thing to understand is what hours and days you can commit to working, without compromising childcare and other commitments you have. Knowing this limit will really help save time and energy later on.

The same applies to how and where you want to work. Remote working might appeal to you in terms of avoiding travel time, but do you have the right set up at home for you to work effectively, or would you prefer to work alongside colleagues in the same work space?

You also need to make a fundamental decision about whether you want to return to your previous industry, or start something completely new. This might again be a personal preference for this new chapter, or it may come down to whether your old role is still possible with flexible or restricted hours. Making this choice early will of course impact your job hunt and plans, as well as how you showcase your skills and experience to be ready to find that new role.

Get yourself ready to hunt

A career break can sometimes create a feeling of being out of touch with the working world and a bit rusty in how to work effectively in your old role or a new one. However, there are lots of small steps you can take to prepare yourself and bring your confidence back for finding your new job.

Firstly, you can revisit your old CV, applications and covering letters, or start something brand new. This will give you a chance to not only remove old errors and ineffective wording, but also to update your experience and skills since your last role – and there’s something really important to remember here.

Because, while it’s easy to think of a career break as a gap in skills development, the opposite can be true. Many people will have really enhanced some of their wider skills while not at work, including effective time management, multi-tasking, financial budgeting, creativity and social skills. So, don’t be shy in demonstrating what you’ve learned since your last role.

If you intend to go back into your old industry in the same or a similar role, there’s other things you can do to prepare yourself. One way to help is to reconnect with old contacts and colleagues to discuss how roles have changed and which companies or departments may be looking to hire. This will also help you get up to speed with the latest issues and developments in the industry, something that will be key to demonstrate in interviews, and help you get back in touch with the working version of yourself.

The last point here is to do with social media. Firstly, ensure your professional profiles are up to date and effective with a refresh of your skills and experience. Secondly, it’s also useful to review your personal social media profiles from your career break and remove or refine any pictures, comments or content that you don’t want potential employers to find.

Starting an effective search

So, you’ve taken the steps to get yourself ready to find a new role, now it’s time to start your search. At this point, it’s important not to simply spend your time blindly searching job sites yourself – it’s much better to get an expert to help.

Bringing a dedicated recruitment expert on board, one who specialises in your planned industry, will make your search far more effective. They can help you understand how you want to return to work and what will truly suit you, giving your new job the best chance of standing the test of time.

An important part of this is to work with the expert to outline your negotiables and non-negotiables in a role. This could be anything from start and finish times, to remote or hybrid working, or the need to travel – whatever it is that makes the job fit your work, life and school balance. Once these are set out, the recruitment specialist will be able to tailor their efforts to only jobs that properly match your needs.

Another part of this tailored search is to find the right workplace culture too. For any job to work out in the long term, the style, values and culture of the firm needs to match your own outlook. A true sector specialist in recruiting will already have this information through their own research and be able to advise how different potential employers are suitable across areas such as flexible working, overtime requirements, travel, socialising and attitudes to working parents.

In summary

It can be daunting to plan a route back into work, but with the right preparation it doesn’t need to be. The important thing is not to rush, not to underestimate your skills and experience, and not to stray away from the working criteria that fit your new life. Working with an expert who understands you as much as they understand the job market can be a real boost to avoid wasted time and effort, or taking a job that’s not right for you.

Knowledge is king

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